What is it?
It seems dismissive, these days, to describe Lexus as an alternative premium brand. Hard to resist, perhaps, for European car consumers of a certain age. But this is a firm that’s long past the imitation phase, which so often characterises the premium wannabe. It has found its own direction and is doing its own thing. We can like it or lump it.
The second-generation Lexus NX mid-sized SUV might be all the proof we need of that. Having come along in 2014, the first-gen version appeared at a time when the Audi Q5 and Range Rover Evoque were breaking sales records, and yet it wasn’t a copy of anything. It was styled and proportioned differently. And it sold – more than a million units globally, becoming Lexus’s most popular car in both Europe and the UK.
So it feels like a bit of a landmark moment now – an affirmation of sorts – for Lexus to simply give us more of the same. The second-generation car has a ‘finessed’ exterior design very much intended to preserve the visual character of the first. You’ll need to look at the NX twice to recognise it – unless you’re looking straight at the bootlid, where the brand’s ellipse badge has given way to a disappointingly prosaic but instantly recognisable ‘Lexus’ spelled out in those oh-so-fashionable, comfortably spaced chrome capital letters.
The familiar external styling hides a major technical overhaul. Going onto the same TNGA-K model platform as the current Toyota RAV4 and Toyota Highlander, the NX has grown by an inch or so here and there but most significantly has wider axle tracks, a lower centre of gravity and a more rigid chassis than its forebear. It also has an all-new interior, with a fresh generation of Lexus infotainment technology within it.
For motive power, meanwhile, you can now choose between a familiar Lexus ‘self-charging’ petrol-electric hybrid (the NX 350h, which we’re driving here) and a more powerful plug-in hybrid (which we reviewed last year).